Meryem Belkadi wins prestigious award, reflects on time at SCARP

Congratulations to Meryem Belkadi

Meryem Belkadi, PhD student in SCARP's Doctor of Philosophy in Planning Program, has now been awarded the uniquely prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

This award exists to attract (and keep!) "world-class doctoral students and establish Canada as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning". It recognizes Academic Excellence, Research Potential, and Leadership in doctoral students. 

The Vanier award is quite an illustrious accomplishment, and SCARP has the unusual honour of two recipients of the award: last year, SCARP PhD student Khadija Anjum was awarded her own Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, for her research on the impact of food price increases on intra-household food allocation and the mediating role of social networks in building resilience in rural and urban communities of South Asia.

Meryem has a 6-year professional degree (BArch) and qualification in architecture from her home country of Morocco, and she completed a Master in Community Planning at the University of Cincinnati, as a Fulbright Scholar. Prior to starting her PhD at SCARP, she worked for five years as an urban designer in Morocco, South Africa, and the United States. As a designer, she was always interested in researching the impact of zoning regulations on urban forms and urban spaces, and this project is a great opportunity to explore this urban question in a new country and a new city.

Congratulations Meryem for this tremendous accomplishment!

Interview with Meryem

Meryem was featured recently on UBC's Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website, in an interview giving insights into her studies, and her time with SCARP, and the reality surrounding her studies. (Full transcript below)

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE A GRADUATE DEGREE?

My professional career achievements as an architect and urban designer have truly only opened my eyes to the reality of urban policies in Morocco. Rather than advancing social equity and social integration, the (mega) projects I collaborated in designing, developing, and implementing have had the total opposite effect in that they have increased privilege for economically advantaged social groups. This outcome strengthens my will and motivation to make impactful changes. With the courage of my convictions and holding true to my values, in 2017 I consequently decided to quit my comfortable position as a project manager and embark on a new adventure. I applied for the Fulbright scholarship to further my studies and deepen my involvement in the alleviation of inequalities affecting disadvantaged social groups. Upon receiving the scholarship, I enrolled in the Master of Community Planning degree program at the University of Cincinnati, with the aim to further pursue a PhD, which I am currently undertaking at the University of British Columbia. My eagerness to continue my education and pursue my PhD stems from my desire to make a stronger impact on urban policies and housing programs, and also to contribute to the furtherance of egalitarian policies aiming at improving the lives of those individuals whose voices cannot always be heard.

WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO STUDY AT UBC?

When I was applying to PhD programs in North America, UBC was the only university I applied to in Canada. I was attracted by the beauty of the campus, as well as the diversity of students, faculty and staff as reflected on the university’s website.

WHAT IS IT SPECIFICALLY, THAT YOUR PROGRAM OFFERS, THAT ATTRACTED YOU?

The ethics and values that SCARP holds and has held in the past align with mine in terms of social justice, poverty alleviation, and equity advocacy. Professors at SCARP are known throughout the world for their work on urban development, international development, and advocacy for better and more equitable cities. Also, as a North African Muslim woman, I was convinced that I would thrive in a department as diverse and inclusive as SCARP.

WHAT WAS THE BEST SURPRISE ABOUT UBC OR LIFE IN VANCOUVER?

Every day, I remind myself not to take the beauty of nature in this place for granted. This place made me an avid hiker and a lover/hugger of trees!

The ethics and values that SCARP holds and has held in the past align with mine in terms of social justice, poverty alleviation, and equity advocacy. Professors at SCARP are known throughout the world for their work on urban development, international development, and advocacy for better and more equitable cities.

WHAT ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE OR CAREER BEFORE NOW HAVE BEST PREPARED YOU FOR YOUR UBC GRADUATE PROGRAM?

As an architect and urban designer, the design process has taught me the importance of perseverance, persistence and reiteration; three important aspects that are key in a graduate program. I like to think that construction sites have taught me a lot in terms of the need to always be prepared for unpredicted issues, but also the need to swiftly respond to solve these issues. Construction sites have also taught me the importance of teamwork, and good coordination within and between teams. Thus, I would say that construction sites have taught me to be adaptive, reflexive, as well as to embrace uncertainty.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS?

I would advise new graduate students to: - Reach out for help when needed; I have found everyone at UBC to be very helpful and always willing to lend a hand. - Take part in professional development programs, workshops, and events organized by the university; it is a great way to connect with other students and to network. - Have a plan, but be willing to embrace uncertainty.